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The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual. This book considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. It argues that the contemporary sociological preoccupation with structure and agency has had disastrous effects on the understanding of Karl Marx's ideas. Through a critical evaluation of 'structuration theory' as a purported synthesis of 'structure and agency', the book also argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. Michel Foucault's ideas were used to both shore up existing positions in sociology and to instantiate (or solve) the 'new' structure-agency 'problem'. Foucault allowed sociologists to conduct 'business as usual' between the demise of structuralism and the contemporary consensus around Pierre Bourdieu-Anthony Giddens-Jurgen Habermas and the structure-agency dualisms. Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory.

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Anthony King

Introduction Jürgen Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory. This status is deserved: he has produced an impressive opus which has addressed critical contemporary social and political issues. Habermas has also been a consistently brilliant exegete, lucidly describing a wide range of philosophical and sociological literature. In the specific field of social theory and, in particular, in the debates about ontology, Habermas has also made a decisive contribution, demonstrating the undeniable importance of meaning

in Human agents and social structures
The myth and reality of social existence
Anthony King

social groups and institutions. Even in the largest institutions, face-to-face interaction and the power of mutual obligation underpin human existence, not obedience to a transcendental authority by independent agents. Contemporary social theory For Tolkien, the Ring involves a social order of individuals who pursue their own interests constrained and directed only by means of a higher force, a Leviathan. He calls this higher force the Ring, but his solution as to how evil individuals are unified reflects in mythical form the solution at which some

in Human agents and social structures
The meaning of Shils
Thomas Schneider

for the discipline today: the understanding of what Shils called ‘the constitution of society’ (Shils, 1982a), Shils’ way of thinking needs to be understood by placing it outside the boundaries of sociological consciousness. In my opinion, Shils tried to solve a larger problem by analysing the genesis and dynamics of (conflicting) values in the process of human action. Eventually, I will conclude by reinterpreting Shils through placing his line of thought in the context of contemporary social theory and moral philosophy. My aim will be to portray Shils as a thinker

in The calling of social thought
Race and nation in twenty-first-century Britain

Nationalism has reasserted itself today as the political force of our times, remaking European politics wherever one looks. Britain is no exception, and in the midst of Brexit, it has even become a vanguard of nationalism's confident return to the mainstream. Brexit, in the course of generating a historically unique standard of sociopolitical uncertainty and constitutional intrigue, tore apart the two-party compact that had defined the parameters of political contestation for much of twentieth-century Britain. This book offers a wide-ranging picture of the different theoretical accounts relevant to addressing nationalism. It briefly repudiates the increasingly common attempts to read contemporary politics through the lens of populism. The book explores the assertion of 'muscular liberalism' and civic nationalism. It examines more traditional, conservative appeals to racialised notions of blood, territory, purity and tradition as a means of reclaiming the nation. The book also examines how neoliberalism, through its recourse to discourses of meritocracy, entrepreneurial self and individual will, alongside its exaltation of a 'points-system' approach to the ills of immigration, engineers its own unique rendition of the nationalist crisis. There are a number of important themes through which the process of liberal nationalism can be documented - what Arun Kundnani captured, simply and concisely, as the entrenchment of 'values racism'. These include the 'faux-feminist' demonisation of Muslims.

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Unsettling subjects of justice and ethics
Ruth Sheldon

specific settings, I find that there is a need to challenge some of the key distinctions assumed within contemporary social theories. Within a theoretical context shaped by the dualistic traditions of Enlightenment modernity, it is common for sociologists to situate their empirical work within theoretical frameworks that are focused either on the discursive construction and representation of reality or on material and embodied phenomena and experiences that are not conceptualised or represented by research subjects (Seidler 2013). Underlying these different frameworks

in Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics
Clive Barnett

. This observation suggests that we should suspend the simple affirmation of the practical over the theoretical, in order to be better placed to notice what is most distinctive about a broadly small-P pragmatist inflection identifiable in contemporary social theory (see Joas and Knöbl, 2009 ). And perhaps the best way of appreciating what is distinctive about this small-P pragmatism is to examine some of the family resemblances between Pragmatism with a big-P and other streams of modern social thought. For example, one might note the evident affinity between Dewey

in The power of pragmatism
Marcel Stoetzle

’ is not just a normative idea or a descriptor of the behaviour of virtuous individuals, but that there is actually an entity called ‘virtue’ out there which virtuous people ‘have’, as it were: the virtuous individual ‘has’, or partakes in, virtue. In the case of ‘femininity’, a ‘conceptualist’ thinker would assert that there is something out there called ‘femininity’, and presumably that women ‘have’ that thing – a bit like a poppy seed ‘has’, or contains, opium. In contemporary social theory, we would use the word ‘essentialism’ rather than ‘conceptualism’, with

in Beginning classical social theory
Open Access (free)
Katie Pickles

Contemporary Social Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994 ), 585–608, at 598. 22 Ibid ., 599. 23 Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990 ), 59

in Female imperialism and national identity
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Waiting for freedom
Liene Ozoliņa

becoming a particular kind of a person. Along with tracing how and when these sets of questions and ideas worked as a disciplinary discourse, I also felt compelled to recognise what these words meant for my informants and how the seminars functioned as both disciplinary spaces as well as spaces for ethical self-formation. In this Epilogue, I wish to reflect on what lessons can be drawn from this ethnographic analysis for critical social theory. What space is there in contemporary social theory to talk about freedom, will and responsibility? 120 Politics of waiting

in Politics of waiting